Welcome to February 2021, it’s time to zone in on the Wood Element. It’s the last of the five element theory that we have left to dive into. It’s the last element that I’ve focused on, however the wood element is often thought of as the first element because it corresponds with spring and is known as “young yang”. It’s the awakening after the deep Yin of Winter. The water element nourishes the Wood element, by taking time to rest in Winter our energy stores are hopefully revived.
The Wood Element is like Spring cleaning the mind of old stale ideas to make room for growth. The Wood type person springs into action and inspires those around them. They love action, to achieve and getting things done. The Wood element energy is that force that sees a vision clearly and knows how to make it a reality.
The archetype of the wood element is the Pioneer and is about renewal, awakening and re-birth.
When the Wood element is in balance we feel confident and intuitive, patient and kind. It’s an expansive energy, like a tree or a seedling, under the right conditions of warmth and light the seedling breaks through the surface of the Earth and starts to grow, buds start to appear on the once bare tree and continues to grow outwards and upwards. Wood people see challenges as an adventure and enjoy being pushed to their limits, they work well under pressure. They overcome obstacles with a driving force of hope and action. They are confident and creative as they move towards their dreams, they are patient when obstacles get in the way, finding a way around it so they have a right conditions to move forward again. They are decisive and they know exactly what to do and when. They know when to take action and when to hold back.
The emotion of Wood is Anger. When the wood element is out of balance it shows up first emotionally as anger, frustration, irritability and or impatience. Wood people become frustrated when they’re not moving forward, when action isn’t being taken. This frustration blocks energy in the body leading to negative or aggressive behaviour and if the wood element can’t find a way to release this frustration it can lead to headaches and migraines. If the wood element is strong in you, physical activity is a great way to release this emotional tension and it’s important that you do exercise that you enjoy. Punching or screaming into a pillow can be great release if you need it!!!! Sometimes wood type people just need a good row to unblock this energy channel.
Keeping the Wood Element in Balance.
If there is an excess of Wood in the body it can show up as addiction, rage and even violence.
If there is a deficiency of Wood in the body it can show up as depression, apathy, inability to plan or organise, lack of direction or purpose.
The punching and screaming helps to release excess wood energy but journaling and writing down your feelings on paper can help a person who has a deficiency of wood to vent their frustrations.
Ways to Keep the Wood Element Healthy
In it’s balanced state wood equals, vitality, growth and kindness.
Physical activity – It is important for wood to stay active and flexible (if a branch isn’t flexible it dries up and breaks).
Getting up early.
Try to be in bed by 11pm.
Brisk walks outdoors.
Stretching – Helps to soften muscles, relieves pressure and improves circulation.
Express your anger in a healthy way and don’t let irritabilities build up.
Eat green foods.
Root vegetables are great for helping the liver to detoxify.
Essential oils like bergamot, chamomile, grapefruit, lavender and peppermint are good oils for the wood element.
On a physical level The organs associated with the Wood Element are the Liver (Yin Organ) and the Gall Bladder (Yang Organ). In Traditional Chinese Medicine the Liver holds high regard, it means To Live and is said to be the home of the soul. The liver is the largest gland in the body and has over 500 functions, it is the major storage site for Vit A, D, K and B12 and produces over 2 litres of bile every day to ensure the free flowing of energy throughout the body. When the body can’t break down a substance for energy, it goes to the liver for detoxification… it’s a busy organ. The Liver Chi governs the health of the muscles, tendons, nails, hands and feet. It’s sense organ is the eyes, which mirrors the health of liver chi and it’s also what creates the exciting vision of the future.
The Meridian Lines
The Liver Meridian line begins at the top of the big toe and runs up the inner leg just above the Kidney line. It enters the torso through the groin to the liver and gallbladder, into the lungs, and up through the throat into the head, circling the lips and moving into the eyes.
The Gallbladder Meridian begins at the outer corner of the eye and runs down the lateral (outer) side of the body to the outer hip. An internal branch goes through the neck and chest into the liver and gallbladder. It runs down the outer leg and knee and ends in the fourth toe.
The Wood Element in Your Yoga Practice
To help with the smooth flow of chi, we’ll squeeze, compression and stretch the areas around these meridian lines. So similar to the water element opening up the inner legs and thighs are important as are twists to help squeeze, release and nourish the Liver. We’ll also add in outer hip and side stretches to support the Gallbladder.
Energetically we want to think about expanding and growing. Tree pose is a great symbol for many of the elements including the wood element. Grounded in the roots, present in the trunk, expanding and growing in the leaves. We also want to start trusting ourselves and go after our dreams.
ARDHA GOMUKHASANA – HALF COWFACE POSE
Ardha – Half
Go – Cow
Mukha – Face
Asana – Pose
Also known as half shoelace pose in Yin Yoga
Ardha Gomukhasa (Half Cowface Pose) is a wonderful pose for the wood element. The squeeze and pressure on the inner thighs stimulates the Liver Meridian Line in the groin and the stretch in the outer hips stimulates the Gallbladder Meridian. The pressure on the inner thigh area also targets the Kidney Meridian and the if you add in the forward fold this stretches the Bladder Meridian, these organs stimulate and nourish the water element which nourishes the wood element.
The wood element has a tendency to to keep us working hard and getting things done so this pose is a great way to quieten that overactive activity in the mind as the water element continues to reminds us of the importance of rest.
MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL BENEFITS
Calms and quietens the body and mind.
Can help to release emotions of pent up anger and frustration which is often stored in the hips.
Stimulates Liver and Gallbladder Meridian Line (Wood Element)
Stimulates Kidney and Bladder Meridian Lines (Water Element)
Stretches outer hips and thighs
Stretches and releases lower back
Stretches the quads
Sciatica – Sitting on a block or blanket can take the pressure of the sciatic nerve, however if in doubt or if you have a flare up avoid this pose, try one of the alternative poses below.
Disc issues in the spine – Rather then folding forward stay more upright with a neutral spine.
Hip replacement – Internal rotation can be difficult after a hip replacement try reclined figure four or sukhasana with forward fold instead.
Pregnancy – Avoid folding forward, you need to keep room for baby!
HINTS AND TIPS
If hips are tight and it’s hard to get the sit-bones to the floor, elevate the hips by sitting on a block or folded blanket. This will help you to tilt the pelvis forward freeing up the lower back.
If there is discomfort in the knee of the straight leg or if you’ve been told your hypermobile place a rolled up towel or blanket underneath the knee to support it.
The more upright you sit the less sensations there will be so go slow and as you move further into the pose.
Any spinal or disc issues stay upright to maintain space between the discs.
Add in a side-bend to stimulate the Gallbladder meridian even more.
Reclined Figure Four
Sukhasana with forward fold (Easy seated pose with forward fold)
Kapotasana – Pigeon Pose
Learn more about Gomutkhasana here